Whirligig Questions and Answers
by Paul Fleischman

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In "Apprentices" in Whirligig, what is Brent and how is he able to fulfill this? Why is the chapter called "Apprentices"?

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Madeleine Wells eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In the chapter, Brent arrives in Beale Beach, Florida.

After settling in, he begins work at one of three picnic tables near a boarded-up ice cream shop. The beach area is empty, and Brent works alone. His goal is to fashion a whirligig that consists of a drummer, a trumpet player, a clarinetist, and a trombone player. Brent decides to honor Lea's memory by making her the clarinetist.

Eventually, Brent takes a lunch break. After lunch, he discovers that he is no longer alone on the beach. His spectators are seven or eight schoolchildren. When they notice Brent, they stop frolicking in the waves to admire his work. Eventually, they ask to be included in Brent's project. To humor them, Brent allows each of them to help him briefly. He shows them where and how to hammer in nails.

The next day, the children do not return. However, four return the day after. Brent swims with them and learns new things from the children. From one of the boys, he learns that the ridged orange shells on the beach are called lion's paws. He also learns that the diving birds are called terns. Grateful for everything he has learned from the third grader, Brent lets the boy help him drill holes in pieces of plywood for his whirligig project.

In this way, both Brent and the children are apprentices. They share knowledge and benefit greatly from their open camaraderie with each other. This is why the chapter is called "Apprentices."

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Meg Eubank, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In the chapter "Apprentices," Brent has arrived in Florida and begins making his whirligig on the beach, when a group of children find their way onto his section of the beach. The children are fascinated by his work, and hound him with questions, which he patiently answers. The children want to learn how to make whirligigs like Brent, and Brent teaches them. The children return to the beach on different days as Brent is working on the whirligig, and as Brent teaches them how to make it, the children also teach him about the beach. As Brent is leaving, he worries a bit about hurricanes blowing away the whirligig, but then he sees the children working on skills he taught them and realizes that even if the wind blows his away, more whirligigs will appear because the children will keep making them. 

In this chapter, Brent is both a teacher and an apprentice, and the children both apprentice themselves to Brent and teach Brent new things. Brent is able to pass on some of his knowledge and start a new tradition of whirligigs on the beach. The chapter is called "Apprentices" because he meets the children who become his pupils (and in some ways, his teachers). In each place Brent goes, he learns new lessons and touches someone else's life in a small way. In Florida, he connects with these children over the building of the whirligig. 

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